Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dirty Politics and Children

My husband became a coach, and a commissioner, in order to support our son's fledgling soccer career. In his capacity as commissioner, Larry started noticing things. Things that, if they happened in a business, would be considered criminal. At the least, they were unethical.  The organization's bylaws outline specifically the procedures necessary for the functioning of the group. Yet things were happening without anyone knowing a thing about them.  When my husband raised questions and asked for transparency, he was patted on the head and told to "trust them".  He began to suspect that financial shenanigans were afoot, and when his concerns were not addressed, he did what any normal adult would do.

He decided to run for President of the soccer organization.

Larry didn't want to rule the world, he just wanted to make soccer a more enjoyable experience. He did everything that you're supposed to do for the election. Everything they harp on in the government classes. Everything that they say makes our country great. He made phone calls and sent out emails listing why he was running and where he saw the organization going.  He met with people, and shook hands, and talked with them about soccer. He'd never run for office before, but he did his best.  When my son asked about what his father was doing, we briefly explained the political process and encouraged his interest.

We should have instead explained about cheating, lying, and other forms of political corruption.

The woman he was running against brought in random people to vote, people who were not even actual voting members.  When my husband started to complain, his opponent started an argument with him as a distraction, so he wouldn't notice the ballot box being stuffed.  Larry "lost" the election 43 to 13, which combined is more than the number of coaches AND voting board members in the organization.  One person even voted twice; she told us so.

Politics are part of life. I understand that. There is no interaction between two or more people that does not involve some form of politics. It is the oil that gets the wheels moving in the right direction. At least, they are supposed to do that. Nobody seems to be in the mood for compromise anymore, and nothing seems to get done without a great deal of screaming and name calling.  I get that.  I understand the gridlock that bogs down Washington.  I don't like it, but I get it.

But this? This I don't get.

Let's be clear here: Members of an organization dedicated to building character in children through sports cheated to win an election. A person in charge of referees, who is a referee herself, cheated to win an election. And you wonder why people believe that games are fixed?

This is a youth soccer organization we are talking about.  It is supposed to be all about children, not about alleged kickbacks and unreported income. We should be enjoying the games, not worrying about someone fixing a lousy board election.  But now I'm struggling with the fact that the people who are supposed to have my son's best interests at heart are possibly criminals. I shouldn't be worried that my hard earned registration fee is going to end up in the pockets of the new President, or that a contract with the company that makes our uniforms involves a kickback. But now I am.

How do I protect my child from that and still allow him to play sports? How do I explain to him about the evil that people do to each other without killing that spark that makes him want to excel at sports?

If someone is so very set on grasping power that they corrupt the very ideals that our country is supposed to represent, what does that say about them?  What does that say about us, that we tolerate such behavior, dismissing it as "politics as usual"?

More importantly, what message does that send to our children? That it's okay to cheat to get what you want? That you can call in favors or work out deals under the table with impunity?  That it doesn't matter how hard you try, it matters who you know? 

It doesn't get better if you change organizations, either.  I am not naive enough to believe that someone will suddenly rush in and fix this travesty, or demand a new vote based on those actually able to vote. That ship has sailed. Because I have a strong sense of fair play, however, I've looked into filing a complaint.  But there is no one to complain to.  These youth organizations run with very little oversight from anyone.  They can do whatever they want. There's nobody making sure that a parent's cash payment doesn't end up in someone's pocket, and no one to report it to if it happens. There's nobody making sure that the coaches are not sex offenders.  There's nobody making sure that the rules, whatever they may be, are even followed.  Doesn't that sound wrong to you? People complain about FIFA, but it's not FIFA who are working closely with our children.

Public school sports have oversight, parochial schools have oversight; even college sports have the NCAA. Why not these groups? Why isn't there a National or even a South Texas Youth Sports Organization that is charged with keeping track of complaints against these organizations and making sure that things are done ethically?  An argument may be made that youth sports are small potatoes, but I don't buy that for one minute. If we are ever going to teach our kids about honesty, integrity, and character, it starts at the ground level. Change begins at the roots. Organizations working with children should be above reproach, and any efforts to allow otherwise should be stomped down hard. Shenanigans  or unethical behavior of any sort with any nonprofit organization should result in the loss of nonprofit status.  Any efforts to fix elections at any level should be brought into the light and the perpetrators banned from office, and even from voting. That is how you get the message across, that our children's organizations are not the place for such behavior.

Something must be done.


  1. This makes me so angry....DD2 use to do cheerleading for a youth football league and I hated it the whole time she was involved. The first game she went to, a parent from the football team started a fight with another parent and I yanked my daughter....hang the expensive cheerleading outfit. She didn't mind so much as the girls were not so nice to her. It was a travesty.

  2. Your situation is another great example of how some parents have become so invested in their children's sports that they forget it IS about the children. They get so wrapped up in the rest of it that perspective is lost. Then we wonder why children in general really struggle with things like positive sportsmanship, honesty and treating others with respect.

  3. UGH!!!! It is so frustrating to hear that someone who actually wants to better things for children on a volunteer basis, gets taken advantage of by someone who takes advantage of such a position. I wish you well in trying to navigate that scene.


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